Not all holidays are happy

With Christmas coming up there’s this expectation that everyone celebrates Christmas, everyone is delighted about Christmas and delighted to visit their families and no one could possibly be stressed out or unhappy about anything for any reason this time of year. For the record, that is BULLSHIT.

First of all, not everyone celebrates Christmas. Jews, Muslims, and dozens if not hundreds of other religions that don’t celebrate Christmas exist. If you don’t celebrate Christmas and live in a place where it feels like literally everyone else does that must suck a whole lot. I’m not going to pretend I truly understand because while I’m not Christian I do celebrate Christmas, but I have to imagine that the annual Christmas barrage is exasperating at best and profoundly isolating and alienating at worst.

Even if you do celebrate Christmas, that doesn’t mean the whole season is uncomplicated joy and togetherness. Seasonal affective disorder is a thing. Depression is a thing. Anxiety disorders are a thing. I have the sheer dumb luck not to suffer from a mental illness, but I hear that the immense pressure society puts on all of us to be happy no happier why aren’t you HAPPY Christmas is ruined and it’s all your fault!!11!! can really do a number on even well controlled illnesses.

For that matter, physical illnesses are a thing, and not a thing everyone, even family, always understands. If you tire easily or can’t handle too much stimulation or can’t safely eat everything you’re offered, Christmas can be a minefield. Imagine having Crohn’s disease and trying to explain to family members who express love with food that you can’t eat the delicious thing they made for you. Or having any chronic illness and having to tell your family that you’d love to do x family tradition with them but you absolutely have to lie down right now. Or that you would love to visit but cannot physically handle spending hours travelling.

The idea of Christmas being about family togetherness is nice and all, but some of us have shitty and/or complicated relationships with some or all of our relatives. I’m very sad to say that it’s not uncommon for people to be disowned by their families for coming out as gay or trans. In my case, even the relatives I get along with, I continue to get along with because I don’t trap myself in a house with them for too many days in a row. It’s also sadly common to have some lovely relatives and that one racist/sexist/otherwise bigoted douchebag who you dread being in the same room with, or well-meaning relatives who keep asking when you’re going to get married/buy a house/have children/get a real job/graduate/etc.

Even if you do get along with your family, it’s just not possible for everyone to visit them. Lots of people work shitty retail jobs that don’t give time off in late December, or can’t afford to travel all the way home, or live in an area where affordable travel isn’t safe. Immigrants in particular can be forced to choose between financially supporting family back home and spending that money on a plane ticket to see them in person. Even if your family is within driving distance and you have a car and the time to travel doesn’t mean the roads are safe or that driving all night while worrying about being trapped in a storm is worth it. Or that the risk of being trapped by bad road conditions on the way back and missing hours of work that you desperately need is worth it. Or that the possibility of getting into an accident and having to pay money you don’t have to repair your car is worth it.

I wish there was a gentler way to say this, but that’s all assuming your family is alive. Some people have no living relatives or they’ve lost a loved one and now have to face the holidays without them. People who used to love Christmas can come to dread it because it’s just another reminder that their loved one isn’t there and never will be again.

Even if you do have living family and can visit them, that doesn’t mean that getting gifts and travelling and decorating and doing special baking and making a huge special meal isn’t stressful as hell. Even under the best conditions, that’s a lot of work. And let’s not forget that it’s work that generally falls on women’s shoulders.

If you love Christmas, that’s great and I’m happy for you. All I ask is that if you talk with a friend/coworker/acquaintance about what their plans are for the holidays and they change the subject, let them. If you hassle people about their plans or lack thereof, you are being an asshole and all awkwardness that you cause is your own damned fault. On the other hand, if you don’t go out of your way to make things awkward, things won’t be awkward no matter how much the person you’re talking with hates Christmas. Just don’t be a dick about it and we’re cool.

If you have a hard time with Christmas you’re not weird, you’re not wrong, and you’re not broken. Holidays can be really hard for lots of different reasons. And if you hate Christmas carols, I am so very here for you. It’s been years since I worked in a mall and I still won’t voluntarily listen to any Christmas music besides the Crystal Method remix of Carol of the Bells.

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